How to Dance Through Mastery

May 20, 2024

When I was working as a dancer, I became increasingly obsessed with the question of what allowed someone to create or dance an outstanding performance.

I tried to understand what the elements of performance were. Was it the technical skills? The personality? An ear for music? A genetic predisposition?

When observing my peers and myself I could distinguish a few types of people in the dance world (it's the same in business) and their different expressions.

The "Technique-Freaks"
The "Do-What's-Asked" people
The "Over-Deliverer"
The "Masters"

"Technique Freaks" were obsessed with the refinement of single moves, a part of the performance, getting it all right.

They seemed to be able to make all the moves, but somehow, when being on stage, they didn't seem to capture it all. I sometimes wondered what it was that, even though technically they had it, it didn't transmit mastery, and the audience were not captured in the same way as someone with less technical knowledge, but a quality of depth that was somehow missing in the technical freak.

The "Do-What's-Asked" people always did what was asked, but didn't really invent, nor gave a sense of depth or outstandingness to their performance. You could not really tell them off, but you could also not find yourself thrilled watching them perform. It was always ok and never wow.

The "Over-Deliverers" were an interesting case as they did perform very well, gave their all, even more and were the first to show up and the last to go. It required a longer time of observation to be able to tell that there also seemed to be a limit. They did all, worked the hardest and longest, but that also didn't seem to ensure their becoming masterful in their expression.

When it came to the "Masters", there was something that wasn't there for all the others, an element of expression that was missing from all the other types.

In my search for what that was I spoke and trained with people of that quality and found a few things that could give a hint of what that is.

They were really transparent, meaning they could take things in fully, had very little reservation in taking in feedback, and allowed others to influence them.

Yet they listened to something internally when it came to creating the end result. Letting themselves be influenced didn't mean that they became puppets, as what seemed to be the last guiding principle was an internal sense of truth in their expression, transparency in them that they would not compromise for anything.

They were supremely present to the task. They would notice things and have a great sense of where everyone around them was, what was required to fit the situation, what was missing from the situation, and how to provide that.

Dont get me wrong, the masters understood their technique well, could deliver, did what was asked for and more, but they did it not for the sake of doing that but for the sake of expressing something beyond that.

They would submit long hours of practice, but also allowed themselves to play freely. Not succumbing to the idea that only repetition would lead to great results, but to keep a curious, exploratory mind at all times.

No matter if in the world of dance, leadership, or business, I have found the same applies everywhere. The people who create outstanding performances have a deep sense of being connected to their environment, their craft and the people they work with, and they listen to an internal sense of direction after taking in all that there is to take in.

In looking for mastery in my craft (dance, bodywork, coaching and speaking), I never got stuck (at least not for too long) in the techniques, the details, what others told me, the standards of the profession, the "what one has to do" talk.

Take it all in, listen to it, and then listen to yourSelf.

Mastery isn't created by following, by doing it all right, by just going through the motions.

Mastery is created in the dance between it all.

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